Exploring New Interests: Don’t Jump Off The Cliff — Try Stepping Off The Curb First

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Making a living doing something we love is a desire most people have. Those that have not found their calling feel they are meant for something else, something bigger and are desperate to find it. Some know what that passion is but may be afraid to start. Others struggle to identify it and have churned through many ideas trying to find it. Sadly others have given up and resided in never finding it. I am one of those churners.

In a previous article, I discussed how passion is built up over time as you focus with growing interest. Check it out here. Obviously, in order to have a passion we must solidify an interest beyond the curiosity stage. The process starts by isolating your various interests down to a list of a few choices, or better to one, and then doing some legwork and fact-finding to validate your decision.

One thing is certain, before pursuing a newfound fascination, one must vet whatever they choose, as to increase the likelihood of finding happiness and building passion. This will also help you understand what type of commitment will be required of you in order to eventually become a master and also, help you decide if the requirements, risks and sacrifices are worth it to you.

Scouting the potential path instead of diving off the cliff and going all in is something everyone should do. It will give you a clearer picture of the road ahead. Even if the road is not so rocky, there is still the question as to whether it will hold your interest long term. Learning everything you can beforehand will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

The first step is to sit down and formulate some hard questions to ask those that do what you are considering. The type of questions, that when answered, will provide you with critical and honest information to ponder. The kind that might make you wince and question the idea altogether. They will uncover and flesh out the negatives about the subject. The things you probably don’t want to hear because you don’t want to be turned off. But you need to know what you are facing. You want to minimize the possibility you’ll have to make the statement: “Well, I didn’t see that coming”.

On the flip side though, anything worth doing isn’t going to come easy. For it to feel like an achievement, there are going to be trials and tough times. The difficulty is part of what makes us feel so good about achieving them. This process is more about determining if it will meet your long-term needs and desires and if it is a right fit for you emotionally and mentally.

If people love and are passionate about the subject, the conversation may get to a point where they sound like they are selling it. Proceed with caution. Just because it sounds incredible to you doesn’t mean it will be incredible for you. It means, it is incredible to them. You are hearing their passion and it is really easy to get caught up in it.

Now just because you have the good, the bad and the ugly of the discipline, and the little voice in the back of your mind is telling you that you might not want to go down that path, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will heed the warning. Many people leap without analyzing their true desires and goals. This guy did. Learn from my mistake.

Yes, I am guilty as charged. I was in a seriously terrible job situation where I worked an insane amount of hours, had no desire to stay in the industry nor did I have an ounce of interest in it. It was pretty much wake up, make the hour-long drive to work, work a 13-16 hour shift, drive home, shower go to sleep for four-ish hours, gut up eat and repeat. I did this for one year. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I needed to for financial reasons. When I could, I would look for an escape, like other jobs or educational programs that could segway to something better.

During one of my few days off, I came across an advertisement for a “Coding Bootcamp.” I thought, man I have always wanted to learn to code, but I didn’t know how to start. Actually, I didn’t research how to learn. So I thought, Problem solved (those with kids will understand this humor)!

So, “Yay Me”, I have a solution to all my problems! I can learn to code in just 12 weeks, get an entry-level position and start a new career. I did minimal research to know if it was right for me and my situation. The research I did was mostly watching YouTube videos on how awesome it is to be a developer, not how hard it is to learn the foundational elements enough to get hired for an entry-level position. I was desperate and didn’t care. I bit hard, applied, got accepted, stroked a check and failed miserably.

Something I didn’t know because I didn’t do my homework was that it wasn’t just one programming language that I needed to learn during the 12 weeks, but I also needed to learn several other languages or programs: the program you use to write and edit the code; the language that runs the command line (back-end) of your computer; the program and interface to backup the code; the database language and the web server administration.

Do you see where are I am going here? There was a lot of information to consume and understand to attain a minimum proficiency that allows you to be competitive in the job market and get hired. Someone who didn’t have a clue about the coding process was going to have a very tough time ingesting and retaining it in 12 weeks. Do you think they listed these things in the ads or were volunteering this information?

Had I taken more time and dug deeper to educate myself, I would have uncovered the reality of what it would have taken to become proficient at coding. I would have also learned what the true demands of entry-level developers are and what I needed to know to get a position. Regardless of how the school was set up, I blame myself. I failed at doing my homework because I was desperate and needed an escape.

But remember, schools and educational programs are selling you services to make money. They will tell you what they need to close the sell. Not saying they will lie, but the information you will initially be getting from them will be “Rainbows and Unicorns.” This is why you have to ask the hard questions and you should receive some unnerving responses.

Moral of the story: Do your due diligence, listen to your little voice, don’t lie to yourself and get the real picture before you take a leap.

Your job throughout your research is to vet the process to clarify and uncover everything you can. You want to know it all. You are not selling yourself. If anything you are trying to persecute the process. Sit down and write down every question you can think of to ask. Talk to friends and relatives and ask them to provide questions. Gather and formulate them into your own words.

Once you have brainstormed and compiled your questions the next step is to set out and find experienced people to interview. Here is a list of things you can do which will allow you to become better informed with little more than an investment of your time. Remember, your goal is to — Find out how the sausage is made. The truth is the truth and if you don’t respect it, it will screw you.

Investigate the interest:

  • Be a stalker: Immerse yourself in the community
  • Join FB groups
  • Follow people on Twitter & Instagram
  • Join discussion boards like Reddit and Quora
  • Ask yourself if you feel comfortable interacting with others in the culture
  • Ask questions, interact and observe the culture
  • Ask someone if you can shadow them for a day
  • Interview people in the position
  • Find someone with a similar path to talk to and interview
  • Ask people you know who do it
  • Ask people you don’t know who do it
  • The more people you talk to, the more valid your information will be

The most important thing you can do is your homework. By now it should be clear that I am not talking about just cruising the internet and reading the top 10 hits on a Google search. If you can think of an action that will provide nuggets of data for you to consider, then do it. Get all the information you can and analyze the hell out of it. Then you can make an informed decision and step off the curb on the right path.

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By KP O'Neal

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